Our heart skips a beat when we learn of a baby left in a hot car or bus. Unfortunately, it’s not just little kids who are sometimes left in hot cars. This post is about an 82-year-old woman left behind in a hot shuttle van belonging to an Alabama assisted living facility.
It may be the first day of fall but temperatures here in Texas are still in the 90’s. Babies, kids, pets and yes seniors are often left behind in hot cars and vans. Unfortunately, it takes just a few minutes before temperatures can rise well above 100 degrees. The results in such cases are often fatal.
Doris Mitchell and the Elmcroft of Halcyon Assisted Living Facility
June 19th was supposed to be a great day for Doris Mitchell. Recovering from recent hip surgery, the 82-year-old woman was a recent resident of the Halcyon Assisted Living Facility in Montgomery, Alabama.
She woke up that morning excited to go on a field trip. Nothing special, apparently just a trip to look at flowers. She and four other residents left the facility for what was to be a short off-site trip. When the bus got back, four of the five residents got off the bus. Doris was left behind.
The heat index was over 100 degrees that day making the interior van temperature much hotter. She was apparently left for 6 hours unattended and alone on the blistering hot van.
The assisted living facility appears clueless, they called Doris’ daughter to see if she knew where her mother was. Ultimately, it was another resident who sounded the alarm.
Doris was located on the bus at approximately 5:30 pm. She was raced to the hospital. Although she fought valiantly, Doris Mitchell ultimately succumbed to her heat related injuries. Prior to her passing the family released the following statement:
“What our mother has endured is beyond our comprehension. We are still trying to absorb the appalling circumstances and we provide her the love and care she needs, and we ask for your prayers during this extremely difficult family crisis.”
We agree. We are sure her suffering was not only terrible; it was easily preventable. (The nursing home released a statement as well and said they were deeply saddened by the incident and were cooperating with authorities.)
A lawsuit has been filed. (This post is based on the complaint filed by the family. We remind readers that the assisted living facility and its staff members have not been found guilty of any wrongdoing. If the case does not a settle that determination will be up to a jury.)
Hot Car Fatalities
As noted above, hot car fatalities are not limited to kids and pets. Last year 52 kids died inside hot cars and busses. There are no statistics that we know of concerning senior citizens or people with cognitive disabilities. We know, however, that Doris Mitchell isn’t the only nursing home or assisted living facility resident dying such a horrible death.
Consumer Reports recently tested a car left in 61 degree weather. With the windows closed, the inside heated up to 105 degrees within an hour.
In 2015, several Good Samaritans found two women, aged 73 and 75, suffering in a hot car on a hot summer’s day in Raleigh, North Carolina. The two women were waiting for a caretaker who had left them in the car while the caretaker went shopping. One woman was found “slumped over” and the other could not speak.
Police rescued the two women and arrested the caretaker for felony elder abuse. The two women in the car survived.
Heat Stroke Not Limited to Hot Cars
As we get older, our bodies lose some of the ability to self-regulate internal temperatures. Young children are very much the same although for different reasons.
Being left outside in the hot sun or being in a hot room can cause heat stroke and death. Heat stroke is not limited to cars.
Last year a decorated Marine Corps veteran died of heat stroke after being left on the hot patio of a California assisted living facility.
Gene Rogers lived a great life including playing golf almost until his 80’s. In December of 2017, he moved to a high end assisted living facility in Carlsbad, California. Less than 6 months later he was dead. Doctors say he suffered a fatal episode of heatstroke.
Family members say he had been left unattended on the patio several times. The last time happened to be one of the hottest days of that summer. On a day where the temperature hit 103 degrees, he was left outside an estimated 3 to 4 hours according to one investigation.
Poor Staffing to Blame?
Many of these incidents are caused by poor staffing. Why did it take the staff at Halcyon Assisted Living Facility six hours to figure out Doris Mitchell was missing and left in a van? Why was Gene Rogers left on the patio in 103 degree heat for 3 or 4 hours?
An investigation into Rogers’ death said a staffer left for lunch and that during lunch there was only one other staffer on duty. Not enough staff often means that workers are simply stretched too thin and so overworked that they make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are fatal.
In Gene Roger’s case, the state fined the facility just $1000.
If a loved one is neglected or abused in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you may have important rights. These rights include the ability to receive compensation on behalf of the person abused and family members.
Pursuing civil damage claims also helps prevent other residents from facing similar tragedies. A $1000 fine isn’t going to stop incidents like these from happening. But a multimillion judgment will certainly get attention. Enough attention to force nursing homes to take steps to prevent future incidents.
To learn more, we urge you to visit our nursing home neglect page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone, 833-201-1555. All inquiries kept strictly confidential.
We and our nationwide network can help seniors and families anywhere in the nation.